Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Work Specialization



By: Jessica Kotcher

Organizational structure is a key element into how Human Resources are run.  Organizational Structure formally dictates how jobs and tasks are divided and coordinated between individuals and groups within a company.  A number of us in this group blog are going to post what we believe are important aspects of Human Resources and Organization Structure.  I am going to start by blogging about one element of the organization structure, Work Specialization. 

Work Specialization is the degree to which tasks in an organization are divided into separate jobs.  In some companies or organizations this is also referred to as division of labor.  Work specialization is something that helps companies become more efficient, and productive.  It is always important for a company’s productivity to go up and or stay stable.  According to our textbook, Organization Behavior, “Work specialization is a never-ending trade off among productivity, flexibility, and worker motivation. “  I believe a key element to becoming a successful company and/or business is keeping your employees satisfied, and motivated, because if your employees are unhappy or unmotivated than the productivity of the workload will be lessened.  An example of where work specialization may be used to help productivity and efficiency would possibly be in a shop, or an assembly line setting.  One of the first businessmen to implement this idea of work specialization in a blue collar fashion was Henry Ford.  He believed the assembly line was beneficial to his company and indeed it was.  The assembly line focused on workers only performing one specific task and passing it to the next person.  It was well-organized, fast, and efficient, something that the auto industry needed to implement in order to be successful, and Ford did just that. 

While researching this topic, and how it affects organizations, I came across a book on Diversity in organizations that shares different types of analysis of work specialization and organizations levels, “Research shows that work specialization may form the basis of ethnocentric behavior in organizations.”(Cox, Finley, 1995)  Another article that I found interesting was, talking about higher executives, and how they deal with problem solving within an organization.  This information is from the Dearborn/Simon Theory from 1958. “When a group of executives from different functional areas were presented with the same problem and asked to consider it from a companywide perspective, the defined the problem largely in terms of the activities and goals of their own functional areas.”(Academy of Management Journal,1988) This proves that work specialization was already in affect before it was even required.  Research clearly shows that some individuals are just better off working on one specific area or line of work that they enjoy.  In this example it was clear that each executive that specialized in a different area looked at the problem through a different light.  This is a beneficial aspect because if one executive looked at this then they would only see one answer to the problem, when in actuality there were several different answers to the problem that was given and work specialization is the reason for that.  I also found that many medical professions, such as nursing, show work specialization in the field.  “The more specialization in hospitals, the more satisfaction with professional status, task requirements, interaction, and pay among nurses.” (Buelens, Jonghe,Willem 2007)

 Although work specialization has its perks and can be a helpful aspect for any company or business, it has its disadvantages as well.  Work specialization can cause organizations to lose the ability to have employees become more flexible in what tasks they are capable of performing.  Spending all their time performing specialized tasks, it takes away from other skills and abilities that they may have.  This is a risk that a company is taking when using this element of organization structure.  Another reason why work specialization can be a disadvantage to a company is Job satisfaction.  One of the characteristics of job satisfaction is variety.  It is clear that with work specialization, variety is not really an aspect of this at all.  Variety can be good in the work environment because people will not become bored, or uninterested in what they are doing every day.  This is when a manager should step in and make an executive decision whether or not work specialization is a beneficial work element to the company. 

After learning more about what work specialization is and how it can benefit or even create a burden on your company, employers should decide whether or not this may be something they are interested in looking into.  The history is there, and much research proves that work specialization can be an advantage for the company, but when it comes down to it, it is always the employer’s decision whether or not to implement this element of organizational structure.  


Cox, T., & Finley, J. (1995). An analysis of work specialization and organization level as dimensions of workforce diversity. In M. Chemers, S. Oskamp, & M. Costanzo (Eds.), The Claremont Symposium on Applied Social Psychology: Diversity in organizations: New perspectives for a changing workplace. (pp. 62-89). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. doi: 10.4135/9781452243405.n4

Selectivity and selective perception: An investigation of M. (1988). Academy of Management Journal, 31(4), 873-873. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/199822948?accountid=12924

Willem, Annick, Marc Buelens, and Ives De Jonghe. "Impact of Organizational Structure on Nurses' Job Satisfaction:A Questionnaire Survey." International Journal of Nursing Studies (2007): 1011-1020. Web. 11 Apr. 2013. <http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0020748906001064>.

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